Writing and Reading

The secret to good writing is reading. I’ve heard and read this everywhere. For me I purposely didn’t write and read in conjunction. I was fearful of stealing from other writers so I held off. I’m learning the error of my ways.

With my newfound surge of reading I am learning what I like as a reader. This is important. Writers read to help strengthen their writing, and strengthen their plot. Knowing what you like as a reader is vital for writing. For a romance I like to see the spark between the two characters early on. Sadly that is not what I did in my first novel.

I was trying to throw in the element of surprise in a romance, which takes a very talented and creative writer to obtain (not patting myself on the back on this notion, I don’t believe I have done this yet, but still something I want to achieve). I took my time setting up the characters and plot, throwing in a few twists and turns from the main focus.

I achieved exactly what I don’t like about some of the books I am reading, a slow start. Time to take a few more steps back (have I mentioned I’m hating this never ending editing process?) and see what I can do. Once the words are on the page I often feel they are set in stone. But I’m taking a chance, adding a bit here and there, seeing if I can create some spark that would grab me, the reader.

It’s almost impossible to be a reader of a novel that has been edited into oblivion. But I’ll give it a try, and then let my beta readers tell me if I’m any where near the mark.

Tantrum Time – Writing a book is HARD

I have a three-year-old at home who is demonstrating the power of the phrase “Terrible Threes.” A phrase I hadn’t heard until I already had a kid. It’s like “Terrible Twos” but with attitude. The ability to ask for a cookie, receive a cookie, and then have a complete melt down because it’s not the RIGHT cookie that was wanted. Tears falling, lungs yelling, feet stomping madness.

As a mother I often want to throw these tantrums myself. Especially when my son is throwing one of his. Okay, I admit it; I’ve joined in. He’s ranting and raving about a cookie, I’m ranting and raving about him and his cookie, the cats are looking at me like, “WTF lady? Can I have a treat?”

So here is my rant of the day: Writing a book is hard. It’s great fun, don’t get me wrong, but if anyone ever says it’s easy to write a book I might have to bite them, toddler style.

I’ve been working on one story for over a decade. It’s been fun, it’s been brutal, it’s been mind numbing. I have quite a few other projects simmering; two that have complete plots fleshed out. Yet I’m still on square one, editing away to mind numbing oblivion.

Because we only get one first book, one first impression. Most firsts are still not quite there yet, still need some work. I’m sure I’ll look back in ten more years and wonder “WTF lady?” and then go give my cats some treats.

First one has to create a plot and tie up all loose ends. My second book proved to be more of a challenge since I decided to be superwoman and juggle three plots at once (True, this one deserve the “WTF lady?” card, but I made it work! I think…) Then it’s the damn editing, the strive for perfection. I don’t think a writer is ever truly done with a book. Each time I read through I’m changing a word, fixing a sentence, scratching my head over whether I want to change this bit or that.

So the ultimate finish line is not when the book is done, because it never is, but when it’s ready. I’m ready. I’m very ready. I want the cookie and I want THAT cookie. But I’m still striving to be better. So I edit some more even though I want to pull my hair out and stomp my feet.

And now I really do want a cookie. Ssshhh, don’t tell my son. I’m going to go hide in the bathroom and eat a cookie. And if you don’t think this really happens ask a mother.

Writing Recluse

As a writer with a day job I have often found myself in a difficult conundrum: socialize or write? Fresh out of college I raced home after work to write. As the years went by I forced myself to have some form of a social life. I mean; it’s hard to write about people without observing people. Most of my socialization came from my co-workers, and then the Internet.

I continue to struggle with this. And now that I have a child it’s even more powerful. The hours in the day that I can write are small, itty bitty. Just three hours after the kid goes to sleep before I go to sleep. When everything in the world needs to be done: cleaning, cooking, organizing, bills, laundry, writing, quiet time with the husband, showing the cats that they are still loved.

I do like being social. Going out with friends, grabbing dinner, chatting. But I fear I have pushed many people away. Not my intention, just a dangerous downside of being a writer.

Ahh, the glamorous life of a writer. Instead of arguing with friends over where to get dinner I’m arguing with my characters over how to write their scenes. And since I spend most of my time planning my novels I feel even more socially awkward. I think of something that one of my characters has done and want to throw it into the conversation. So far I have realized my insanity and stopped myself prior. Or if I’ve failed my friends have been nice enough not to notice.

First Person to Third Person

I am in the midst of my biggest novel overhaul to date. Since it’s conception Project Torture has been written in the first person, shifting between two main characters, two supporting characters, and later two minor characters. After reviewing some of my feedback from beta readers I have decided to give third person a try.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this. Some sections I’m seeing the potential that I now have, seeing the section grow and strengthen from the third person switch. Other sections I’m struggling, feeling that I am losing something in the transition.

My character voices are becoming quieter, but MY voice is growing louder. I miss those pesky little devils that have enjoyed yelling at me for over a decade. They don’t feel the same sentiments. Quite honestly they are relieved to no longer have to shoulder the responsibility of telling their story. Now it’s up to me.

In the end, I don’t know what person Project Torture will be written in. The transition is all too new. And since I’m a heavy pronoun user it’s taking a bit of time to convert all those pesky I’s and My’s to S/He’s/His/Hers. Maybe the silver lining is my pronoun addiction will be cured?

Then again, maybe not, just looking over what I have written here I’m pretty sure this is one addiction that will remain for quite some time longer.

Anyone ever tackle a conversion like this? Any tips for making is easier? I.. Err.. SHE, the author, will appreciate any help that can be sent her way.

The Positive Side of Criticism

I have been fortunate to be involved in a book swap with other writers. It has been a lot of fun to read works in process and offer assistance. I feel like a schoolgirl whose crush has spoken to her when I read positive words about my own work. The criticism, however, stings raw and fresh.

After the stinging grows comfortable the true benefit of criticism slinks in. More then the highly coveted praise, criticism allows me to grow as a writer.

First and foremost a writer needs thick skin. Or a really thick shell, along with the ability to avoid the Internet all together, or not search for anything remotely related to writing. Since I fail at that and will continue to fail, I need that thick skin for those times I can’t drown myself in a thick drink.

More importantly criticism allows me to rework my novel. As the sting fades the mind is still working, thinking over the words. And slowly parts begin to make sense. Sections do need strengthening. Especially after more then one person says the same thing, then it’s game on for revision.

Back to editing. Take 5,556. I won’t be able to correct all criticism. But I will be able to see the areas that make sense to me and make those parts better. Two steps back, one step forward. The end goal remains the same. The stinging gone, my mind is working on how to fix the affected areas.

At the end of the day my work will be better for the criticism, better for listening to the criticism. Or maybe that’s the alcohol talking?